by Delancey Stewart
Release Date: 10/28/2014
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Natalie Pepper thinks she can just be friends with CJ, the man of her dreams. But after seeing him every day at work – and after he lays it all on the line – it becomes pretty clear that something’s gotta give. She’d admit to herself, and to him, that all she really wants is him…if she wasn’t so afraid of losing the best job she’s ever had (and the life it has made possible).
At least she’s got her friends to distract her. Lulu Rossi is an unorthodox and unpredictable spitfire of a girl who has a habit of saying whatever’s on her mind. And while that attribute entertains friends and intrigues her new boyfriend, Andrew, it might be the one thing that stops their relationship from moving forward. Lulu has unintentionally entered the world of Upper East Side royalty, as her ER doctor boyfriend turns out to be the pedigreed heir to an old money fortune – one that is watched over by his manipulative and exceedingly judgmental mother, Elizabeth “Tippy” Barton.
Natalie’s insane supervisor worsens the situation at work when her own man troubles result in a new “no fraternization” policy, and CJ finally gives up and begins to look for other opportunities. Natalie is forced to decide what is important to her for once and for all. Will it be CJ or her job?
Lulu must prove her worth to Andrew’s family – or make him see that the only person whose opinion really matters is his.
“You ready?” he asked.
“For lunch?” I winked.
“For whatever,” he said, an earnest smile on his face. CJ and I had a complicated relationship. There was a mutually acknowledged attraction between us, and I’d shared the two very best kisses of my life with him. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t part of my plan to get involved with someone at work—for a whole slew of reasons. So despite our incredible chemistry, we were doing our best to enjoy a friendship instead. But CJ made no secret of his desire for more.
“Let’s start with lunch. I need to get out of here,” I said, grabbing my bag and coat.
“I’ll take whatever I can get.” CJ didn’t move as I approached the door of my office, and I had to squeeze between him and the doorframe. The proximity allowed me to get close enough to smell the minty leathery scent that surrounded him. My nerves always started firing when I got that close to him, and I pushed past him quickly, blushing. He stood still just a beat longer as I waited for him to get going, and I was fairly certain that he had leaned in to smell my hair before finally stepping from the doorway.
We wandered to a Korean barbecue that was on the second floor of a nearby building. I would never have ventured in on my own—the signs were in Korean and the place was clearly a favorite with those who knew what constituted good Korean. Luckily, CJ had done this before.
We were seated in a private booth next to the window overlooking the street below. A small grill was built into the table in front of us, and CJ grinned at me as I looked around with great interest.
“I’m glad you’re not a vegetarian,” he said.
“Nope. Totally carnivorous.” I smiled, part of me embarrassed. When I was with CJ, it seemed like even my most innocuous statements took on an unintended sexual tone. “Why, will this be a meat-heavy meal?” There it was again. I flushed.
CJ was grinning at me again, the full lips pulled wide to reveal the adorable dimples on either side of his jaw. He shook his head slightly, the dark eyes shining. Evidently, I wasn’t the only one getting the innuendos that seemed to keep falling out of my mouth. “Yeah. Fairly meat heavy.”
Our lunch arrived, and it turned out that we would be cooking it ourselves. The grill in the middle was lit for us and each of us had a long fork that we used to put strips of raw meat onto the grill and pull them off. We also had kimchi to compliment the meat. It was a unique experience, and I found CJ smiling at me at several points as I tended to my barbecuing.
“What?” I asked him at one point toward the end of the meal. “Am I that much a novice? Are you laughing at me?”
“No,” he said, his face finally serious. “I just … Natalie. This is hard for me. I want more.”
I'm not big on labels, but there are a few that fit me (not necessarily in this order. Or maybe in this order):
- wine drinker (and wine geek)
- mother of small boys
- military spouse
- chocolate eater
I've written the Wine Country Romance Series, which ties my love of wine to my love of falling in love... and the Girlfriends of Gotham series, which begins publishing with Swoon Romance in December 2013.
I also love short stories, and my themed collection (all set in the same NYC brownstone across the span of a century) published in 2012.